Renown Health President and CEO Tony Slonim, MD, DrPH, explains the importance of honoring patients as real people.
During my fellowship in the intensive care unit, there was a popular teaching: Do not become emotionally involved with your patients. However, by truly engaging with those who walk in our doors — learning their background, interests, history, likes and dislikes — I learned to see people, not just patients.
During my time in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I learned there isn’t a more precious responsibility than caring for a critically ill child and their family. You hold the parents’ hands. You cry with them at the bedside. And to this day, I have parents who write to me and say, “Dr. Tony, you impacted our lives.”
So, I completed my training with a different perspective: If you fail to engage and get involved, you’re missing out. You learn amazing things when you allow yourself to get immersed in your work. We can’t imagine what people go through unless you’ve had a similar experience. About a month ago, I celebrated 15 years of being cancer-free. When you’re not healthy, it occupies your entire existence. When you’re healthy, it’s easy to take your heath for granted.
As clinicians, we’re traditionally expected to treat patients’ physical health. While that is certainly an important mission, one in which clinicians are privileged to experience, care providers can easily become so focused on the physical domain that we lose sight of a person’s total health, which includes the mind, body and spirit and the ability to frame a person outside of their illness. Those factors can have a huge impact on the quality of an individual’s life.
To help people get well, we need to focus on their total health. That’s why at Renown Health, we see people, not patients.